There are a variety of types of questions in life. Those questions we have answers to, the questions we may one day be able to answer, and there are questions we may not ever be able to answer. Our curiosity may not be able to sit well with the idea that we don’t have every answer and that instead we’ll need to be satisfied with mystery.
You could put these extremes on a spectrum, with a sense of certainty about all things on one side and a belief that we can’t know anything on the other. We, the church, can get into trouble if we fall too far to one side. We can get dogmatic and argumentative about every minute detail, puffed up with a pride that we can know everything, even everything about God. On the other hand, the church may be too reactive to this and shrug its shoulders claiming “who are we to claim to know anything?”
The difficult task is then to discern what in fact God has shown us and what is kept concealed. Where can we have boldness and certainty and when must we patiently wait with our mouths quiet? And how do we learn the answers when we are able to find them?
John Calvin speaks well on this:
“Let us… permit the Christian man to open his mind and ears to every utterance of God directed to him, provided it be with such restraint that when the Lord closes his holy lips, man also shall at once close the way to inquiry.”
We ought to seek wisdom and answers and understanding throughout life. God has gifted us with our minds and blessed us with great understanding by his Spirit. The church should be a place of deep questioning and long meditation. Yet we must remain humble knowing that we have our limits and our place—a place far below the full understanding and wisdom of God. We must remain dependent upon God and his word.
All this to take me to the passage I read this week from Psalm 73. The psalmist is struggling with the way the world seems to operate. The wicked are finding such riches and comfort, and this seems to go against the ways that God has prescribed. He can find no answer for his questions. Does this question have an answer or not?
It turns out that this is the sort of question that finds an answer in only one place: the presence of God.
But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end. (Psalm 73:16-17 ESV)
We may not always know where this discernment will lead, but doing so holding the hand of God (v23) will lead us nearer to him. And while our flesh and heart may fail, God says he will forever be our strength (v26).